“Marine littering”, i.e. the pollution of the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes, endangers the organisms living in them and is one of the greatest challenges for our global society. An estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic are already in our oceans, and more than 10 million tonnes are added each year.
Up to 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, about three-quarters of which are made of plastic. If pollution continues at the current rate, the seas will be completely littered in a few years. According to recent UN studies, by 2050, more plastic parts than fish are expected to swim in our seas.
Huge carpets of plastic waste are already forming on the world’s oceans, the largest of which, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific, already has the size of Central Europe, i.e. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Luxembourg, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Birds, fish and other creatures eat plastic parts and die from their stomachs clogged with garbage or from internal injuries. For more than 40 percent of whales, about 36 percent of seabirds and almost all species of fish and sea turtles, it is scientifically documented that they eat garbage. Other marine animals get tangled up or strangle in old fishing nets, ropes or plastic foils.
An even more serious danger to life in the seas and also to human health arises from the crushing of plastic waste by surf and swell to microplastics. The creeping influence on the food chain threatens the smallest plastic components and their ingredients (e.B. plasticizers) to humans and animals. The effects on human health have not yet been fully researched.
The UN estimates the annual economic damage caused by plastic waste in the sea to be USD 13 billion. However, this does not yet take into account consequential damage (e.B. from plastic in the food chain, etc.).
In addition to health threats to humans and animals, the waste also has economic consequences: tourism is threatened because beaches are polluted, fishermen struggle with plastic waste in their nets, garbage gets trapped in ship screws, cooling water systems and desalination plants.
Plastic in the sea does not simply disappear, but has a lifespan of up to 500 years. The longer plastic floats in the oceans, the more it is crushed into ever smaller fragments (microplastics) due to friction, salt water and UV radiation. Or these are part of e.B. cosmetics, fibers of synthetic clothing or abrasion of car tires and are washed into the oceans via rivers. Microplastics can hardly be removed from nature by today’s means. It also binds microorganisms and pollutants. Marine animals hold plastic parts for food and perish from them.
Plastic components (e.B. plasticizers) also threaten us humans through the creeping influence on the food chain. It has already been detected in the human body. Research on microorganisms shows that microplastics can cause inflammation in tissues and weaken organisms.
The medium- to long-term effects of microplastics on humans and animals have not yet been sufficiently researched, let alone that there are solutions for its removal from water.
In addition to plastic waste, oil, chemicals and other pollutants also regularly pollute the water. Crude oil, petroleum products or chemicals enter the sea simily as a result of accidents such as oil tanker accidents, ship operations and oil production at sea. However, the world’s largest share of oil and chemical pollution flows into the sea from land via rivers.
Chemical binders and so-called dispersers (for oil decomposition) are often used in the fight against oil spills, whose residues usually sink and can also endanger the entire ecosystem. OEOO is therefore working on processes to get oil and chemicals out of the water quickly, without residue and in an environmentally friendly manner.
One Earth – One Ocean has set itself a big goal: a “Maritime garbage collection”. The aim is to clean the world’s seas and inland waters from plastic waste with specially developed catamarans of different sizes.
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